You won’t hear the phrase Irish Argentine music voiced in the pub much. Not that fusion music is a hot topic but other types of fusion get a lot more exposure. Radio stations play the latest electro-pop-rock tunes from any one of the latest fabricated bands. Latin American DJs play Afro-Cuban Salsa, and there’s even a Jazz-Tango in Argentina. Folk Metal is a thing, and Celtic music mixed with Salsa can be pretty good. The excellent Salsa Celtica hail from Scotland and Cuba mostly and if you’re Irish or Scottish take any opportunity to check them out. You will dance the night away listening to ‘familiar’ Salsa tunes like a pro. Considering all of the Irish influence in Argentina, one would think that some kind of Celtic Folklore would have evolved. Los Paddys De Las Pampas are one of the first groups to blend traditional Irish music with music from Argentina and in this interview with the leader of the group we learn how the group evolved and hear about their successes to date.
Irish Music’s South American journey
Paddy Mulcahy is an Irish musician with a keen interest in community music and a music academic who holds a masters in Ethnomusicology. Paddy is a man passionately interested in the cultural and social aspects of music. When we spoke in September 2016 Paddy was in Argentina working on his musical projects.
Irish In Argentina (IIA): Where are you from?
Paddy Mulcahy (PM): Lahinch, Co. Clare.
IIA: How long have you been in Argentina?
PM: This trip for 3 weeks, I’ve been coming to Argentina about once a year for the last 5 years to work on our music project mixing Irish and South American Music (specifically Argentina so far).
IIA: Tell us a little more about your musical project.
PM: Our Project “Los Paddys De Las Pampas” is a group mixing Irish Music and South American music. In 2012 there was an initiative by the Irish Government called The Gathering that gave grants for projects that connected Irish diaspora with their roots, which gave us finance to record and release our first record “Come Home”.
Currently, we have two Argentinians playing with us, both with Irish Heritage, Tomas Nelson on Cuatro and Charango and Clara Butler on Flute. They offer lots of advice on South American styles and arrangements as well. The music is unique, Carnavalitos with concertinas, and reels mixed with rumbas so is a new type of fusion.
The name has a deeper meaning as well with “Los Paddys” meaning the Irish and “Las Pampas” meaning Argentina. The group is now doing well in Ireland and this Summer performed at The Doolin Folk Festival, Fleadh Cheoil Na hEireann and Keltska Noc among other festivals across Europe.
IIA: How do Argentinians respond to your music?
PM:. The Argentinians in the Irish Music Scene in Buenos Aires and La Plata have been nothing but helpful in every aspect from helping me to organize a show or house concert to giving me advice on what Argentinian songs to learn. I think another interesting point to make is that there are plenty of Argentinians with no Irish connection but just love to play Irish music and dance Irish dance. The interest and love of Irish music are not confined to just the diaspora and Irish community. That is something I learned from being in Argentina and wouldn’t have thought of beforehand.
IIA:. What’s the hardest part about being a musician in Argentina?
PM: I think to live and work as an Irish / Celtic musician in Argentina is very difficult as there is not a lot of paid work available. I have some musician friends in Argentina who can live as Luthiers (Instrument makers) but to earn your money from playing gigs is nearly impossible. I live and play in Co. Clare in Ireland and we are in a privileged position where there is plenty of paid music work in the summertime due to the huge tourist trade in the county of people coming specifically for the music.
IIA: Do you think your Irish roots have helped your musical journey?
PM:. Everything starts from my Irish roots. My father is a musician in Ireland and taught me to play and manage gigs. The songs I play and the instruments I use are all closely connected to my roots. A lot of these things I would have taken for granted and it was only when I left Ireland did I get a better sense of how lucky I was to grow up in the musical environment I did.
IIA: Where is your favorite place to perform in Argentina?
PM: There are 2 places, The Fahy Club, where we did the first Los Paddys gig in collaboration with the Trad Musicians of Buenos Aires in 2011, this was the beginning of my musical journey here. I was back at the Fahy Club last week watching the Celtic Argentina Irish dance company and the atmosphere was still as good as ever. Los Paddys and Celtic Argentina did a video a month ago in Ennis that was viewed by thousands and i got to meet with them again a month later on the other side of the world in the Fahy club.
Secondly, there is a bar now called Slainte (Av. San Martín 6066, Buenos Aires), they are having regular sessions and concerts and supporting Trad musicians in Buenos Aires. The last 2 years is has become a hub of Irish music and bands in Argentina and a lot of credit is due to Matias and Gaston who run the bar.